It’s been a while.
Not my fault, I swear. The internet here has been unbearably slow, thanks entirely to the millionth rupture of the Asia-America Gateway.
We’re talking dial-up speeds on American websites. Meaning about 20 minutes to load a single page on WordPress.
YouTube videos? Hope you enjoy 144p resolution. Not that I’d know, because even that doesn’t run smoothly. It’s like watching a grainy slideshow from the world’s first color camcorder—if that camcorder was previously buried in sand for a week.
I hope you’ll excuse me for not writing up posts this week with quill and parchment and sending them to you via carrier pigeon.
What is the Asia-America Gateway, and what does it have to do with the internet in Vietnam?
Very little if you only use local websites, and everything if you need to watch puppies playing with babies on YouTube.
The Gateway is one of three major undersea internet cables connecting Vietnam to the rest of the world, running from California to Hawaii to Guam to the Philippines to Hong Kong…to Vung Tau, an hour from Saigon.
If that sounds like a long way to go, you’re right. And breaks are frequent.
The cable has been damaged 3 times since I touched down in Saigon last August, and was down just a couple weeks before that in July.
Vietnam’s internet does run through other cables, but the vast majority of…internet…juice…comes through the Asia-America Gateway.
And when it goes down, you notice.
If you’re wondering how an undersea cable can just break so often, the answer is sharks.
That’s right—sharks are complete assholes. Frequently trashed in the press for being vicious man-eaters and having “poor dental hygiene,” sharks are rightly pissed. Their passive-aggressive solution is to sever our precious, undefended fiber optic cables with their teeth.
If you’re too lazy to read that article, you missed that Google covered stretches of that cable in freaking Kevlar. Maybe they should stop screwing around and install those old-school anti-submarine mines to protect our God-given right of YouTube. You know, the ones that were so successful at stopping the sharks in Finding Nemo?
According to this article, Vietnam’s major ISPs are going to be connected with a brand new cable to the US starting in 2016, but right now the reality is…breaks are not uncommon.
That being said, when the net is working, speeds are comparable or faster than speeds in the US. If you’re planning a visit, just don’t be surprised if you can’t spend all day Tweeting about how much traveler’s diarrhea you got from the hotel restaurant. (But it looked so clean!)
Not until next year, at least.
Until then, do your part and eat shark fin soup.